As civil lawyers, we are familiar with the trite dichotomy ‘contractual’ v ‘extra-contractual’ responsibility. Actually, both types of responsibility reflect frustration for unmet expectations. In the former case, it’s a matter of a partner was is not able to comply to obligations he once underwrote; in the latter, it’s more matter of life that reveals unpleasant deviation from its normal course.
The key concept is frustrated expectation, indeed. This came to mind on occasion of a webinar organized in July this year by AMT, the Italian association of transformative mediators, with prof. Geoff Woolf as special guest. Geoff presently serves as Dean of Humanities and Sciences and as Professor of Literature at Cincinnati State College in Ohio. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and he has published 4 books of poems, the last of which came out in 2020. Geoff is also a conflict professional; in fact, when he was a faculty member, he was the chief negotiator and contract compliance officer for the faculty union He negotiated around 10 collective bargaining agreements, and he have worked as a mediator under both facilitative and transformative models for about 15 years in both legal, organizational, and family settings.
In his intervention at the AMT Tea Break, Geoff reported on a recent workplace conflict encounter he managed as mediator/facilitator. The tale epitomizes the problems that may arise from different cultural expectations and, in addition, the bias that the same neutral has to face.